Health

Zika virus: US relaxes travel warnings to India

US health agency changes India’s status to “current or past transmission but no current outbreak” from the earlier “ongoing outbreak”

 
By Banjot Kaur
Last Updated: Tuesday 02 April 2019
Zika virus
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

Centre for Disease Control (CDC), a US health protection agency, has eased its December 2018 travel advisory to India over Zika outbreak, especially for pregnant women.

The CDC had earlier cautioned pregnant women to not travel to India as there was an ongoing outbreak in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. On April 1, 2019, the Indian Council of Medical Research said its December rebuttal to CDC’s earlier advisory has led the international agency to say the status of Zika outbreak has changed to “current or past transmission but no current outbreak” from the earlier status given to all south Asian nations — “ongoing outbreak”. Also, the revised CDC advisory puts all countries in the clear from having an “ongoing outbreak”.

However, it is not immediately clear if this rebuttal was actually behind this change.

According to the CDC website, the advisory now states, “India has reported past or current Zika virus transmission. We do not have accurate information on the current level of risk. There may be delays in detection and reporting of new outbreaks. Because Zika is a cause of severe birth defects, CDC recommends pregnant women and couples trying to become pregnant within the next three months work with their health care providers to carefully consider the risks and possible consequences of travel to areas with risk of Zika. If you travel, you should strictly follow steps to minimise exposure to and prevent mosquito bites.”

The ICMR adds that Zika virus strain isolated in Rajasthan matches with the one in Brazil, which saw a massive outbreak in 2016. It further clarifies that though preliminary studies done on strain in Rajasthan do suggest that the mutation causing birth defects (microcephaly) was absent there but “further characterisation of the strain is required as microcephaly has several attributable cases.

This is a quite a departure from the stand taken by ICMR earlier. It had almost ruled out the possibility of microcephaly in Rajasthan. It was also questioned by several experts, who had termed it detrimental to public health.

Also, the ICMR announced that a study was being rolled out in Madhya Pradesh among Zika-positive pregnant women to understand the outcomes of pregnancy and to know the occurrence of neurological complications, including microcephaly. A similar study, ICMR said, has been rolled out in Rajasthan as well.

Down To Earth had reported earlier that Zika-positive pregnant women were made to forcefully abort foetuses by government doctors.

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